British coins are all minted by the Royal Mint in Llantrisant, Wales. Before decimalisation, twelve pence made a shilling, and twenty of these shillings made up a pound, but on the 15th of February, 1971, this all changed when decimalisation was introduced, dividing the pound note into 100 new pence. Today there are eight different British coin denominations in circulation, the 1p coin, 2p coin, 5p coin, 10p coin, 20p coin, 50p coin, pound coin and two-pound coin, and each has its own unique identity to make it instantly recognisable by people from around the world. In addition to each British coin having a distinct size and shape, each denomination of British coin also has a set weight – here’s how they stack up.
The 1p coin
The new one penny as we now know it was first introduced in 1971 with decimalisation. Over the years the penny has featured four different portraits of Queen Elizabeth II with the latest design created by engraver, Jody Clark, introduced to circulation in 2015.
Originally minted in bronze but now minted in copper-plated stainless steel, the composition of the 1p coin has had to change over the years due to rising metal prices but the specifications for the 1 pence coin as set out in the Decimal Currency Act of 1969 have not changed and mandated that the weight of the coin should be 3.564 grams ±0.000005g.
The 2p coin
Two-pence coins were also introduced into circulation in 1971 with decimalisation and have also featured four portraits of her majesty Queen Elizabeth II. When the two pence coin was first introduced it was printed with the word ‘NEW’ on the reverse to avoid confusion with the existing coins pre decimalisation. The 2 pence coin was originally minted in bronze; however, its composition was changed to copper-plated steel in 1992 because rising metal prices had caused the composite value of the two pence to rise to 3 pence.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, a two pence coin weighs double that of the once pence coin, coming in at 7.12 grams.
The 5p coin
Five pence coins were first introduced into circulation in 1968 to replace the existing shilling before decimalisation in 1971. The original five pence coin was quite significantly larger than the one in circulation now, with the larger coins being demonetised in 1990 and replaced with the smaller 5 pence coin that is in use today. Minted initially from cupro-nickel, the composition of five pence coins has now changed to nickel-plated steel, with The Royal Mint gradually removing the old cupro-nickel coins from circulation and replacing them since 2013. With its significantly more substantial size, the old 5 pence coin weighed in at 5.65 grams, which is more than the current 20p!
Today, the smaller 5 pence coin weighs just 3.25 grams making it the smallest coin in circulation.
The 10p coin
Ten pence coins were also introduced in 1968 to replace the old florin coin prior to decimalisation in 1971. The original ten pence coin was slightly larger than the one in circulation today and was replaced with a smaller version with the same design on the 30th of September 1992. By the 30th of June 1993, the old, larger, ten pence coin was withdrawn from circulation. The ten pence coin has featured four portraits of the queen since its creation and has had two different reverse designs, with the latest being a segment of the royal shield introduced in 2008. Like the five pence coin, the ten pence coin was also originally minted from cupro-nickel; however, rising metal prices prompted a chance to nickel-plated steel, and cupro-nickel ten pence coins started to be removed from circulation in 2013.
The current 10 pence coin weighs 6.5 grams, which is almost half the weight of the original 1968 coin which weighed 11.31 grams!
The 20p coin
The 20 pence coin was introduced into circulation in 1982 to bridge the gap between the 10 pence coin and 50 pence coin. Designed as an equilateral curve heptagon, the 20 pence coin was meant to stand out amongst the other silver-coloured five pence and ten pence coins. The design of the 20 pence coin has been mostly unchanged over the years, however in 2008 the date of the coin was moved from the reverse to the obverse, a change which ultimately led to a series of dateless coins being printed in 2009, the first dateless coins to have been minted for more than 300 years!
Still minted from cupro-nickel, the 20 pence coin weighs exactly 5.0 grams.
The 50p coin
The fifty pence piece was first introduced in 1969 to replace the 10 shilling note. It took several years for the mint to come up with the design for the fifty pence coin, eventually settling on an equilateral curve heptagon as a way to distinguish it from the other silver-coins in circulation. In 1997, the fifty pence piece was reduced in both size and diameter but remained composed of cupro-nickel. The obverse of the fifty pence coin has always been a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, however, the reverse has seen 71 designs over the years with an additional nine designs produced by The Royal Mint as commemorative releases only and not put into circulation.
The old fifty pence piece weighed in at 13.5 grams, with the new and current fifty pence piece weighing 8.0 grams.
The £1 coin
The original (old) one pound coin was first introduced in 1983 to replace the one-pound note which was eventually removed from circulation in 1988. Minted from nickel-brass, by the end of 2014 it was estimated that up to 3% of old one pound coins were, in fact, counterfeit, and the Royal Mint decided to change the design to combat this. On the 28th of March 2017, a new dodecagonal bi-metallic one pound coin was introduced into circulation, ultimately replacing the old one pound coin when it was removed from circulation on the 15th of October 2017.
The new one pound coin weighs 8.75 grams.
The £2 coin
The first two-pound coin was issued in 1986 as a commemorative coin but the two-pound coin in circulation today was not released until 1998, following a review of the UK’s current coinage. Following a consultation, it was decided that a bi-colour coin would be preferable to help distinguish it from other coins already in circulation. The design for the reverse of the coin was decided through a public competition, won by Brush Rushin, an art teacher from Norfolk. Today, the two-pound coin has seen many reverse designs and has been used to commemorate a number of important events.
Weighing in at 12.0 grams it is the heaviest coin in British circulation.
Browse the Royal Mint's Shop Today
Interested in buying a coin? Browse the Royal Mint's inventory today.Shop now